The Meaning of Names

The Meaning of Names

Book - 2014
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In 1918 in the farm country at the heart of America, an ordinary woman tries to raise a family during extraordinary times. Estranged from her parents because she married against their will, confronted with violence and prejudice against her people, and caught up in the midst of the worst plague the world has ever seen, Gerda Vogel, an American of German descent, must find the strength to keep her family safe from the effects of a war that threatens to consume the whole world.
Publisher: Pasadena, CA : Red Hen Press, [2014]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781597099592
Branch Call Number: F
Characteristics: 219 pages ; 22 cm


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Jul 30, 2016

Reading this book, makes me wish I’d asked my German grandmother more questions. She, too, was a homesteader in Nebraska. It’s just lately, that I’ve come to realize that anyone who was German was looked on as a traitor during the First World War. Told from the perspective of a first-generation German-American woman who was disowned by her father because she refused to obey his directive to marry the man he approved of, the reader sees not only the impact of the war on German Americans, but how families can become divided as well by personal issues. Add the threat of a husband being drafted leaving a woman with four children, and the influenza epidemic, there’s a lot of history in this fictional account. I wish I’d ask my Grandma so many more questions.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 04, 2016

The Meaning of Names is the story of Stuart, Nebraska in 1918. Anti-German sentiments are sweeping the country, as is a deadly strain of influenza. The first chapter pulled me right in. After that, it took a little time for the story to build up, but once it did, it was well worth the wait. The characters are believable. The storyline is interesting. The setting is vivid. The tension is great. But the element that stood out the most to me was the language. Shoemaker weaves some beautiful sentences that come together to create fabulous scenes. Despite the grit of the plains and the spread of a pandemic, I enjoyed being wrapped up in the world Shoemaker molded.

Sep 04, 2014

This biographical novel centers around Gerda Vogel and her family, both the family into which she was born and the family she creates with her husband Fritz. Set in Nebraska in 1918 and 1919, the story illustrates the ways in which World War I and the influenza pandemic impacted life on the Great Plains.

Ms. Shoemaker crafts very compelling characters, and as a lifelong resident of Nebraska, I was quickly drawn into their world. As someone of German heritage, the fear and hatred of Germans caused by the War was especially unsettling. Don't be fooled by the novel's length; the text and imagery packed into the 220 pages is dense (in a very good way).

I enjoyed everything about the novel except the ending which wrapped up too neatly for my taste. However, since the author based Gerda and Fritz on her grandparents, it's good the book followed their life story.

Aug 11, 2014

The Meaning of Names was just announces as the 2014 Omaha Reads title! Join us in a community conversation about the novel, and meet the author in September!


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